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173. Mailbag: I Have a Master’s Degree – Now I Want a PhD

There are many paths to a PhD. In the humanities, it’s common to earn a Master’s degree first (or so we’re told…)

In the biomedical sciences, students regularly skip the Master’s degree entirely, enrolling in a PhD program that includes coursework.

This week, we hear from two aspiring scientists who used the Master’s degree as a stepping stone, and now they’re looking to take the next leap.

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170. Mailbag: Should I Quit Grad School?

If you’re a grad student who hasn’t thought about leaving your PhD program at least once, you might not have a pulse. When experiments fail, grants are rejected, or you get reprimanded by the PI, it’s often comforting to remember that all of this suffering is self-imposed and you could simply leave the University and start a book shop somewhere.

For most students, that moment passes and they move on with their training and career. But sometimes, the moment doesn’t pass, and students begin to ask more fundamental questions.

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051: Should I change labs or quit grad school?

Jessica was finishing her third year of grad school when she finally decided she had had enough.

Funding had gotten tighter, and her PI had basically checked out.  Many of her lab-mates saw the writing on the wall, and left their projects behind to find other work. With no support from her advisor or peers, she had little hope of turning things around.

And then her thesis project – the one she just proposed and defended – was scooped by a competing lab and published in a major journal.  It was the last straw.

Jessica had three options:

  1. She could quit immediately, and have no degree to show for her three years of work.
  2. She could find some portion of the project to salvage as a Master’s thesis.
  3. She could start all over and try to find a new lab.

Amazingly, she chose Option 3.

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